President’s message 30 June 2021

I’m writing this report shortly after a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 led to us cancelling a planned family trip to Sydney to see the musical Hamilton. Our daughter, who has already watched it 10 times on Disney+, was devastated. The trip would have been the first time I saw my parents in person in 2021.

I’m not sure many people would have predicted, when Covid-19 first came to public attention in March 2020, that it would still be affecting our lives so extensively 15 months later. That is as true in Rotary as it is in the rest of our lives. The pandemic continues to restrict and influence the club’s activities. As you read this report, you are probably sitting well-spaced from your fellow dinner guests because of covid restrictions.

In some ways, the 2020/21 club year will be marked by absence; the absence of a youth exchange student because of travel restrictions, the absence of the wine event and the absence of the club’s storied Golf Day after Bonville International Golf Resort changed their operating model and moved away from charitable golf days.

I prefer to think of the 2020/21 year as a demonstration of the club’s resilience and the resilience of its members. Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman said in 2017 “I think that life is difficult. People have challenges. Family members get sick, people get older, you don’t always get the job or the promotion that you want. You have conflicts in your life. And really, life is about your resilience and your ability to go through your life and all of the ups and downs with a positive attitude”.

Through everything Covid has thrown at us, Coffs City Rotary and its member have retained a positive attitude. George continues to work with Pacific Bay to identify dates on which we can hold the next wine event. Paul has taken over admirably from Mike and Eddie and is working with golf clubs across the region to identify dates and venues for our next golf day. Bob is well underway with preparations for the inaugural Coffs Harbour Festival of Motor Sport. Membership has remained stable, with several prospective members on the cards once things improve and we are able to get back to business.

Despite the hardships, there have also been bright spots this year.

We welcomed the birth of the first “club baby” in many years, to then-President Elect Melissa Nunn and her partner Jesse. The happy arrival meant that Melissa chose to relinquish her position as President-elect, but she has agreed to act as President Elect next year (postponing her year as president by only 12 months). I am grateful to Paul McLeod for agreeing to act as president next year in her stead.

Through the hard work and diligence of Bernard Dowling, we continued to convince a wide array of interesting speakers to join us for lunch, including but not limited to:

  • Craig Wood of not-for profit organisation Destiny Rescue;
  • Phil Crofts of the Soup Kitchen;
  • Julie Ferguson, who organises and runs OzHarvest Coffs Harbour;
  • Dr. Alan Tankel, Head of Emergency Dept. Coffs Harbour Hospital;
  • Mike Blewitt, who offered some insight into exactly what being a Justice of the Peace entails;
  • Warren Grimshaw AM, an honorary member of the club and Chairman of the Governing Council of the Mid North Coast Local Health Network;
  • Rhiannon Mitchell, who created and runs Saltwater Sistas; and
  • Rev. Graham Whelan OAM who spoke on the feats of the Rats of Tobruk

2020/21 also saw the official opening of the new and improved National Cartoon Gallery. The new facility is a wonderful asset for Coffs Harbour and has already featured a number of amazing exhibits, including but not limited to the works of political cartoonist Bill Leak, the humorous illustrations of Sandwich Bag Dad and the recipients of the 14th International Manga Awards.

Author A.A Milne once wrote “Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I’m privileged to have witnessed and been a part of the bravery, strength and wisdom of a remarkable group of men and women this year. I have no doubt that Coffs City Rotary will emerge from Covid not just intact but thriving.

Yours in Rotary,

Jay Clowes